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Winds, Rains Pound Europe; 6 Killed

THE WORLD

January 04, 2003|From Times Wire Services

BERLIN — Hurricane-force winds and torrential rains battered Europe on Friday, killing at least six people, flooding thousands of homes and hampering rail, road and water traffic.

Winds of nearly 125 mph and flooding caused chaos in Germany, France, Britain, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, with barge traffic halted on key rivers and toppled trees blocking roads and rail lines.

There were also widespread power outages from the storms, which refocused attention on the odd weather in Europe this winter that has left parts of the Alps without snow because of unseasonably warm temperatures while leaving northern Europe shivering from a cold snap not experienced for decades.

Germany's Itz River flooded parts of the town of Coburg in Bavaria, and the Moselle River submerged the town of Zell, about 70 miles west of Frankfurt.

Divers and a police helicopter were searching an area near the Luxembourg border for a 71-year-old man whose car was found abandoned near an overflowing Moselle tributary.

A 13-year-old boy was killed and his father seriously injured when a tree crashed onto their car near Stuttgart. An 18-year-old was killed when his car flipped over on an icy road near Hamburg.

In Romania, floods caused by melting snow killed three people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

In France, a disabled man drowned Thursday in the village of Oches after falling into a flooded ditch, the local government said.

Two weeks of rain left hundreds of homes in Belgium inundated, cutting off a dozen villages around the Meuse River and prompting authorities to put the army on alert.

Rescuers in Portugal were searching for a car that reportedly fell into the Douro River after a road collapsed because of heavy rain.

In the Czech Republic, water from rain and melting snow raised river levels, flooding fields and roads.

Winds in parts of southern Germany and Switzerland caused widespread damage.

Gales swept France on Thursday, felling electricity pylons across the country. About 10,000 people remained without power Friday.

In Switzerland, wind toppled the Christmas tree in Basel onto nearby tram lines. Officials in the capital, Bern, estimated the damage to buildings in the city at $2.9 million.

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